Government investigators reportedly found that Americans have been overcharged by more than $100 million each year for new passports.
The revelation comes after a new requirement forced air travelers heading to Canada, Mexico, and Central and South America to obtain passports.
According to The Associated Press, the Government Accountability Office investigated the $97 fee for new adult passports imposed by the State Department. Thirty dollars of the fee is aimed at paying for clerks who process passport applications at post offices, State Department passport offices, libraries and other local government offices.
As the government issued about 14 million new passports to meet the new air travel requirement this year, Americans paid at least $111.4 million more for passports than passport costs that are defined by the government, The AP reported.
“This is not supposed to be a profit-making venture,” said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-S.D., according to The AP. “They charge 30 bucks just for passing something across the counter.”
Tom Casey, deputy department spokesman for the State Department, denied in early November that his department overcharges passport holders.
“We always want to make sure we’re providing a good and high-quality service for the American people,” Casey told The AP. “We are comfortable (the $30 fee) represents our actual costs.”
The new air travel passport requirement made headlines this summer when demand clogged passport processing centers, forcing many Americans to cancel trips for weddings and other flight destinations in North America, South and Central America, and the Caribbean. Others paid more money to have the passport process expedited.
By June 2009, Americans traveling to those same countries by ground will also be required to have a passport, and the State Department estimates that it will issue 23 million passports in 2008. That demand has prompted the State Department to introduce a new $45 Western Hemisphere passport card in spring 2008.